My name is Ashley, and I am an Introvert.

If there were another -ism to the widely accepted list (sexism, racism, ageism, etc.) I would lobby hard for temperamentism. Okay, so it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but the concept is spot on. Our society, and the many industries that coexist to form it, is suited to extroverts.

introvert introversion extrovert extroversion myer-brigg personality typeIt’s all about them.

And it’s oppressive to us.

We are introverts.

We are not recluses. We are not antisocial (even if we come off that way sometimes!). We are not backward or even particularly quiet or shy.

And you (you extrovert, you!) may be scratching your head because you’d never even considered to categorize us that way. You may find us especially engaging at parties, or surprisingly adept as presenting in front of groups. What you don’t understand (and may never wrap your mind around) is that these kind of engagements exhaust us.

Kind of a shocker, right? Because you, as an extrovert, live for a large gathering. You thrive off of small talk and chance meetings. Doing. Going. Seeing. Meeting. Talking. Talking. Talking. You panic at an empty hour in your day planner and have nightmares about a Friday night at home. Alone. With yourself.

I learned a few years ago (actually five…my god time is flying) in a personality class during which we spent a lot of time on the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator, the true meaning of extroversion and introversion. And yes, we took the test.* I learned it’s not about being shy versus gregarious. It’s about where one gathers and directs their energy.

Extroversion- directing energy toward the outer world of people and objects.

Introversion- directing energy toward the inner world of experiences and idea.

As an introvert I not only enjoy spending time home (and even alone, but that was more of a past-life kind of option), I need to. If I don’t properly care for my introversion I don’t properly care for my very essence. I feel stressed out. Overwhelmed. Misunderstood. And in desperate need of downtime. Extroverts would probably refer to this withdrawal-like state as boredom, disconnection, antsy.

Really, it’s the same shit in a different pile.

The kicker is that we introverts are a minority of the population. And we’re vastly misunderstood. There is an old but fabulous article called Caring for Your Introvert that I highly, highly recommend reading. Here is a snippet:

Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”

This was also the article that first put into words what I had long felt but been unable to articulate. Introverts are oppressed. It is incredibly difficult for an introvert to rise in the see-and-be-seen world of politics, or even an ever-socializing corporate machine. These ladders to success are not built for us introverts to climb. We, therefore, are underrepresented in public life.

And the same is true in social life. When we put on our brave faces and step beyond our front door we enter the extroverts’ world. They throw the parties. They are the regular attendees. They cultivate the norms and expectations. Extroversion is the unspoken expectation.

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward.

We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts’ Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say “I’m an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.”

Another fantastic quote from Caring for Your Introvert. This idea of introversion being the label for the method through which I re-charge my soul was one of the most freeing concepts I’ve been introduced to in my life thus far. I felt explained. I felt understood. I felt normal.

For me, being an introvert means carefully guarding my time, cautiously dolling out my energy, and critically managing my (and now my family’s) schedule. Too be quite blunt, one obligation a day can easily lead to feeling over-scheduled. And my house is my sanctuary. So it comes first a lot. I am conscious not to allow it to get too out-of-control (piles of laundry, chaos of clutter, avalanche of dishes) because if my house stresses my out the whole world could end.

Well not really but…really.

As an introvert I’ve been told I come off as intimidating. This is always the funniest thing to me, because it’s totally a translation of actions and attitude through an extroverted society’s lens. No, I don’t typically approach people at gatherings. Yes, I mostly abhor small talk. But it has nothing to do with being haughty and everything to do with being introverted.

I also find it extremely awkward when people I’m not familiar with are present in a space I am very comfortable in. I am thrown off by the dichotomous nature of being in a setting that signals one thing to me with a person that signals another. I often resort to glossing over (i.e. ignoring) the “offending” intruder…and thus become intimidating.In case you were wondering, no, I’m not inherently friendly. I have to work at even being adequately polite.

There is much lost in translation between introverts and extroverts and I think creating a better dialogue about what introversion actually is, who it “affects”, how they feel, what they mean, and how it comes off can help lessen the chasm. We are not freaks. We are not less than. We are just different, navigating a world that wasn’t made for us.

ashley name tag

 

My name is Ashley and I am a proud Introvert! This is who I am and this is who other people are too. We are ready to make ourselves heard.

 

 

*And about that Myers-Brigg Type test? I’m an INTJ (and I have remained one through numerous radical life transitions over the past five years). Especially as a woman, I am rare indeed. I love and relate to my type and hope to do a more in-depth post on it in the future.

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12 Responses to My name is Ashley, and I am an Introvert.

  1. Karlin says:

    I love this post! I’m going to make Jared read it. I have tried to explain my introversion to him and he kinda gets it… but kinda not.

    When I first got my place here, I actually sat him down and told him I was worried that I was “way more of a homebody than he is.” He said was a homebody too, and I was like “No… I really need to be at home sometimes.” It’s really hard to explain to people.

    If I end up having plans for social engagement 3 days in a week (ESPECIALLY if they are in a row), I become stressed out about it. Even if it’s with people I completely adore and want to be around. I absolutely have to break it up with my own time at home, without them! I definitely have to recharge. And if those days do end up in a row, I will purposely plan to stay home for the 2 days before the plans, or the 2 days after, haha. I will be like “I’m going to be out for the next 3 nights, I need to stay in tonight.” I seriously thought this was weird, and for sure Jared and other friends do not understand it.

    A big part of it for me too that I’ve realized is that my job sucks a lot out of me purely because of the customer service aspect. I have to interact with people and have to have a certain energy level with them for 8 hours a day. A lot of the time, when I get home all I want is to not talk to anyone anymore! A lot of my friends think that obviously after a long day you’d want to go hang out with your friends, but sometimes I really don’t want to expel anymore social energy.

    Jared gets that that is just the way I am now but I don’t think he fully understands it, still, because he doesn’t function the same way. And that I totally get, and am always telling him, “I don’t want to go out, but you should!” then he gets worried about me being at home by myself, lol, but that is exactly what I want!

    I really like that you posted about this. It is totally true that we live by extroverts’ expectations! Honestly, reading your post is kind of a revelation to me. AND it’s just good to know you aren’t the only one. : ) Most of the friends I interact with day to day are extroverts and do not understand. Spread the word chica!

    • ashley says:

      I think the customer service thing takes a HUGE toll! When I worked customer service full time it was all I could do to leave the house on my off days. It’s just too much, and yes, so completely draining. I still think I only survived it by purposely taking the opening/closing shifts so I could spend a few hours minding the store alone. Also, substances were a great help in getting through those long, customer-filled days ;)

      I get ya girl! Love it :)

    • Cynthia says:

      Seriously, the customer service! I like it so much more now than I did in the past, but I also only work part time. By the end of an 8 hour day I am always ready to turn off the happy energy and when I get home I am always one with the newspaper! :) I also do the morning shifts to minimize the customer time!

  2. Abi says:

    Partnering with an introvert has helped me understand this better – although that doesn’t mean I know how to turn off my yammering (when I’m happy and comfortable, I’m often speaking.) Justin is definitely this, as is my mom, as is at least one wonderful person I met through my work.

    Even some extroverts (myself included) need to recharge our batteries and have limits: but, mainly, I do get energy from talking to people: I have extrovert privilege, because the world rewards what for me is just a part of being me.

    So, I’m with you that increasing awareness would be great – and I especially understand because of the weird looks I get when I try to explain that we don’t want to go to the big party because that’s too exhausting for Justin or when someone thinks he’s aloof because he (very expressive & engaging) doesn’t talk w/them since he doesn’t do small talk.

    Thank you for writing this down! :)

    • ashley says:

      I think extrovert/introvert relationships can work especially well. It’s all a continuum, and many extroverts crave slowing down (at times) but don’t know how to do it. And introverts do like to get out, we just sometimes need a push! Thanks for the comment Abi!

      • Abi says:

        Great point! And that’s definitely been the case for us, I think. It all comes down to balance, right? Balance just looks different for every person.

  3. Jenn says:

    I feel like I needed to respond because I related 100% to everything you just said. We had to take the Meyers-Briggs at work and I’m an INTJ also (maybe it’s a lefty thing:)). A coworker said her husband is also an INTJ and she’d like to start a support group with my husband since we can be “difficult” to live with. I have no idea what she’s talking about;) I can’t rest when things are messy and out of order in my home.

    I too am often told I’m intimidating, snobbish and aloof. I hate this. Sure, I don’t always have an acceptable response in conversations but what people don’t realize is that my minds racing and I’m panicking on the inside because I really just don’t know how to respond to peoples annoying small talk.

    One of my favorite activities and something I spend an endless amount of time doing is decorating, rearranging and generally just making my home into my ideal sanctuary. I was just thinking about this when I got home from work last night. I had to work all weekend- 46hours in 3 days, I was exhausted
    (although I realized long ago I’m not into human interactions so I work as a scientist in a lab). As soon as I walked in my door I literally felt like a ton of pressure was lifted off my chest and that I could finally breathe again. I never realize how tense I am until I’m home. I pretty much have to take all day today to recharge and feel human again.

    Anyway, I could go on for a long time about this but I just wanted to say you’re definitely not alone. We’re very misunderstood. Maybe we should start a support group to deal with everyone else!

    • ashley says:

      Jenn! Two birds of a feather huh? Maybe it IS a lefty thing! If only we knew how alike we really were as we subbed for each other in Junior High basketball ;)

      It is so bizarre that being uncomfortable (or even insecure) gets translated as arrogant or snobbish! I can sometimes tell when I’m putting that vibe off but damn if I know what to do about it. I’m so glad you understand the home obsession! That a recent ah-ha of mine and I can’t even express the payback I get from a weekend of yardwork or organizing versus a weekend of extensive socializing. One just feeds me (and my space) so much more than another.

      Good for you for being a scientist! I’m a social worker-in-training and last year had this epiphany that maybe I don’t want to do “direct services” (i.e. client work) all day. I’m thinking this may have something to do with my introversion and protecting my sanity ;)

      • Abi says:

        As an ENFP/ENFJ (I’m on the P/J cusp) who is a lefty and not an expert in being the queen of my domain, I don’t think there’s a thorough connection ;) … However, we’re not a statistically meaningful sample!

        :)

        I definitely think playing to your strengths and thinking about what will give you energy is important with job-searching – I couldn’t be a writer or a copy editor or a QA analyst or a technical writer, even though I really enjoy and need all of those types of things in intermittent doses, because I need the people-time to give me energy!

  4. Sheila says:

    Thank you, Ashley, for the word “temperamentism.” It’s a word I’ve thought of, but you published it, and now I hope it gets used more. I’m a lifelong introvert. Now that I’m retired, I don’t have to try to be anything else. It’s a great relief.
    I believe that there are societies, mostly in Asia, where introversion is more acceptable than in the West. .

  5. Sheila says:

    I want to add that I recommend the book: The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. The author describes how, when Jung invented the terms introvert and extravert, he meant them to be merely descriptive. He considered himself an introvert. When Freud parted company with Jung professionally, he began defining introversion as a disorder. That’s when a lot of the trouble began.

    • ashley says:

      Thanks for the comments and recommendation Sheila! That sounds very interesting–and applicable for me ;)

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